Mann, Patrick - Dog Day Afternoon (London, Mayflower Books, 1975, 222pp)
Far less sympathetic than the block-busting film Patrick Mann’s original novel is a hard boiled masterwork depicting the descent of a big noting, mysgonistic loser. Whereas the movie’s protagonist Sonny is basically a hapless sucker trying to make the best of a fucked up bank heist the novel’s Littlejoe is possessed of a poisonous, self deluded mindset that is bound to doom him from the outset. When he bullshits a gay prostitute ex con into pulling a bank job so that he can dump his masochistic wife and pay for his beautiful drag queen girlfriend’s sex change it is difficult to feel anything, but contempt for his cruel, limited vision and hopeless actions.
In a manner reminiscent of Hubert Selby’s Last Exit To Brooklyn Mann’s descriptions of both New York City and the gay scene of the 1970s are sordid and hard bitten. Despite the rise of Gay Liberation Dog Day Afternoon’s Grenwich Village remains a largely sordid and brutal place controlled by the mafia and littered with young hustlers, crash pads and temporarily unfashionable drag queens. Whilst the Village may be tough it at least has some redeeming culture unlike the rest of city as Mann beautifully captures the feel of a sweltering New York firmly firmly gripped in the malaise of Nixon’s seventies.
Banned from a number of American libraries the novel also resulted in the sacking of a Vermont school teacher who opposed restrictions on its availability. Written under a psuedonym by Leslie Waller and inspired by real events the book marks a high point for the erstwhile author of both 1950s pulp fiction and 1980s film adaptations (including Close Encounters Of The Third Kind!) Despite the fact that its bilious, wretched outlook threatens to overwhelm at times Dog Day Afternoon’s downward spiral is nonetheless calculated and compelling.
" ‘Shut up Boyle’ Joe interrupted, trying not to sound too unpleasant. ‘You don’t know your ass from your elbow about life man. Take the Chase. What do they owe you, man? For fifteen years you been dumb enough to give them loyalty and honesty. That’s so much gravy to them.’
They’re laughing up their sleeve man’ he went on ‘They had your ass for fifteen years and they don’t owe you a fart. Not a fart in the wind. To Chase your just meat. But it, sell it. What did they buy you for all those years? Are you even making fourteen grand a year now? Sixteen? I don’t think so. And for a chickenshit salary you put out something that even money can’t buy. Loyalty. What a sucker play, Boyle.’
‘The first time Chase profits dip below a certain point they won’t hesitate to cut you off like any other bad investment. Cut losses. It isn’t even something that another person decides. They feed your name into a computer and clickety-click out comes a name. Your name. Get rid of Boyle at fourteen thousand a year. Let some young black or Puerto Rican run the joint at half Boyle’s salary.’
Littlejoe paused. He saw that Marge was listening to him so intently that she hadn’t even puffed once on her lighted cigarette.
‘Sure he’ll steal you blind, because he isn’t a dum dum like Boyle. But what he steals is a business cost that’s already been passed onto the poor, stupid customer anyway. So who cares? Insurance covers it and insurance costs are part of what the customer pays for. Fuck everybody, but start with the poor loyal Boyles of the world.’" (pp 135-36)
(The author’s website including reviews, biogpraphies, etc)